« AnteriorContinuar »
seized by a paroxysm of laughter, which lasted all the time she was dressing them.
Theirs were not elaborate toilets ; they consisted of little else than a blue flannel frock apiece, made out of an old shirt of stout Josh Vandereck's.
The dressing finished, the mother carried them, one on each arm, across the bit of rough shingle, set them down, joined their hands (the little ones scarcely could stand firmly alone), and started them on their run across the sands, which at every low tide they imprinted with their tiny dimpled feet.
It was a lovely morning. Across the blue sky, dim with heat, swam a half wreath of light clouds, pale and luminous as pearls; the sands were rosy
in the sunshine, and a fair olive-brown in the shade; a breeze full of fresh sea-dew was blowing
“Off !” cried the mother, clapping her hands; and away bounded the little creatures, their rosy limbs looking lovely against the sands, and their fair hair blowing out widely, making them appear not unlike two rare specimens of the sea
Elizabeth Vandereck watched them fondly, and turned back with unwilling steps to prepare her darlings' breakfast.
She stood before the little square looking-glass that hung beside the window, and made her thick fair hair into two great shining plaits, that she fastened close to her head with a matronly neatness and scorn of display. She was a sweet simple-minded woman, with large eyes and large calm lips, and a low but noble brow. Her eyes were very bright that morning—so bright that a sudden mist, the forerunner of tears, came over them as she remembered there was no one to think so but herself.
children would love me as much if I were plain,” she thought, and smiled and sighed at the same time.
She went and stood before a little table, on
which were a pure white cloth and a Bible nothing more. No toy was ever laid on that, no childish finger was allowed to touch it. It was Elizabeth Vandereck's shrine, where every morning she read those words addressed to the widow and the fatherless, and where every morning she found and kissed these words
August Joshua Vandereck drowned at sea."
Its date showed it to have been entered two years ago ; and by this time peace and happiness were in her eyes as she turned away. step, so light and firm, seemed to express a determination to enjoy heartily the blessings for which she rendered thanks.
The meal was soon prepared : the brown bread and butter, the fragrant coffee, the little highseated chairs placed on each side her own. Then there was to go into the sandy little garden to cut and disentangle from the fishing-nets a fresh, crisp lettuce. A few flowers, too, were gathered
by Elizabeth's plump fingers, and shaken free of the sand and sea-spray, to be placed in a certain mug, from which no lips had been allowed to drink since Joshua Vandereck took his last draught from it, and which bore his favourite toast
“ To the wind that blows,
And the ship that goes,
goes now to call her little ones to breakfast. Sea, sands, and shingle are all glittering by this time in the sun's full light. Elizabeth Vandereck shades her eyes to look, and is about to call the little twins by name, but something causes the sound to change on her lips to an exclamation of surprise. She misses the double track of little footprints on the sands. They reach to a small cluster of black slimy rocks, but no farther : beyond there the sands are smooth and spotless as the last tide left them,
There is a dangerous pool amongst those rocks,
deep enough to drown the children, who have been forbidden to go near.
Away rushes Elizabeth Vandereck, with her arm across her brow as a shade from the glaring sun, and with all sorts of fears, wild and vague, at her heart.
She reaches the rocks without hearing the familiar little voices, and alarm makes her footstep slow and wavering.
She glances fearfully among the black slimy forms. There is the pool, but no children beside it. She goes
round behind the rocks to that part which has hitherto been concealed from her, and suddenly she starts back ; her hands are clasped in astonishment and horror.
This is what Elizabeth Vandereck sees on the fair sands of Eastweir in the early summer morning: A form stretched out stiffly as in death ; a woman's form, in a white thin dress stained with the night dew and dust. One cheek seems